While emergency food operations continue in Sudan’s Darfur region, there’s a new effort to help the many of the displaced people there feed themselves.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the FAO, has launched a five million dollar program to provide seeds, supplies and animal health services.
FAO Sudan desk officer Alex Jones says the goal is “to return Darfurians to a productive lifestyle as soon as possible.”
"The vast majority of the people affected by the conflict are either farmers or pastoralists. And they’ve lost livestock. They’ve been displaced. They’ve lost their agricultural tools. They’ve lost their seeds. So, the idea is, yes, immediate relief with food aid is very much needed, but the quicker we can get the people back into some form of productive activities the sooner they will be free of food aid," he says.
Mr. Jones says drought and conflict have taken a toll on crops. Nevertheless, now is the time to get ready for the winter cropping season.
"Right now, we’re in a vegetable planting season. Of course, it depends on altitudes. For example, in the central Jebal Marra, which is in the triangle between El Geneina, Nyala and El Fasher. At higher altitudes you can already plant some grain types. Most of it is vegetable cropping. But we’re preparing for the main cereal season in February and March," he says.
Jebal Marra is considered the breadbasket of the greater Darfur region.
Besides helping with crops, the FAO is also focusing on livestock.
Mr. Jones says, "We have a large program for donkeys, which are the main means of transport. And for many of these people who are displaced, it’s their sole remaining asset. So, we have programs that are involving provision of fodder for donkeys, and animal health treatments, re-equipping veterinary health centers. We’re also launching programs now, which we hope to implement in the next three months for small-scale livestock restocking, especially poultry. We have to consider that most of these people are living in displaced conditions, whether in camps or in towns, and so on. So, large-scale livestock re-stocking is not an option."
The Food and Agriculture Organization program also aims to reduce violence against women.
He says, "There is a major problem of course in any IDP, internally displaced person, concentration of fuel wood of firewood, which leads to very high deforestation. But especially there is a protection issue for women, who travel long distances to collect firewood and are often subject to sexual violence. We have a large program now, which is teaching people how to build fuel-efficient stoves out of local products. So they use far less firewood and reduce this risk."
The United States has contributed a large portion of the five million dollars for the program. The FAO has just received contributions of another six million for other crop and animal renewal projects in Darfur.